By: Amy Do
(original digital drawing created with DALL-E 3, prompts by Amy Do)
In today’s digital age, online portfolios have become essential to personal and professional branding. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a recent graduate, or a seasoned professional, a well-crafted portfolio can help you stand out from the crowd and connect with potential employers, customers, and colleagues. But with so many platforms and options available, it can be challenging to know where to start.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the best practices for building a digital portfolio and help you take your online presence to the next level. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, these tips and strategies will help you showcase your skills, accomplishments, and personality in the best possible light. So, let’s dive in!
What is a portfolio? Why is it important?
Online portfolios are a crucial tool for professionals in marketing, communications, graphic design, and the film and entertainment industries to showcase their work and accomplishments. A well-designed and curated portfolio can demonstrate your skills, creativity, and expertise to potential employers and clients, helping you stand out in a competitive job market.
Can’t I just have a Google Drive Folder with all my stuff in it?
Cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box offer easy file storage and sharing options, making it simple to keep projects up to date. However, having a private cloud folder is not ideal for a professional portfolio for the following reasons:
- Limited Customization: Cloud folders typically offer limited customization options, making it difficult to create a visually appealing and professional-looking portfolio. There’s no way to change the icons that show folders or various subfolders, or to showcase your personal sense of design in the UX of navigation or page layout.
- Limited Accessibility: Private cloud folders may not be accessible to everyone you want to share your portfolio with. The owner of the folder needs to share the link with others in order to gain access. Google drive folders don’t show up when potential clients google “Graphic Designer Chicago” or “Freelance Photographer Events Boston”. Housing your materials on a public domain makes it easier for work to come to you!
- Difficulty in Showcasing Work: Cloud folders may not be designed for showcasing work, and can make it difficult to organize and present your portfolio materials in a way that effectively showcases your skills and accomplishments.
- Lack of Interactivity: Cloud folders are typically not interactive and do not provide opportunities for visitors to engage with your work or provide feedback.
- Limited Analytics: Cloud folders may not provide analytics on views and engagement, making it difficult to track the success of your portfolio and understand what is resonating with your audience.
However, cloud folders are a wonderful place to gather links and brainstorm portfolio content. Best practice is to keep all of your projects in more than one place, so consider having backups in the cloud and a hard drive as well as on your website!
There are so many places online to house portfolios — where should I put my stuff?
Most working professionals choose to have a personal website with a customized domain name that gathers everything they need in one place. For example, a graphic designer might have a personal site that houses their most recent work, and also links out to different websites that they’ve worked on, the art gallery they’ve been featured in, and their separate Behance profile.
College students have many options for creating an online portfolio, depending on their needs and budget. Some of the most popular resources include platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and WordPress that offer easy-to-use templates and drag-and-drop tools to help students build a professional portfolio website.
Pro tip: Students and alumni with .edu emails can often get discounts on the price of a domain name.
What the heck is Behance?
Behance is an example of a specialized portfolio site for designers. It’s owned by Adobe, which means it’s set up to showcase visual projects like typography, package design, and other art projects. Different industries have different specialized sites. For example, ArtStation is a showcase platform for games, film, media & entertainment artists, whereas Github is focused on housing code and software projects. General-purpose sites like Wix and SquareSpace are a great place for most emerging professionals.
How should I format my portfolio?
It depends! Different industries have different best practices. It’s always good to look at examples before setting up your own. Here are some resources that can help you get inspired!
For Portfolio 101: The Career Library
For Marketing: Marketing portfolios use testimonials to build trust, and often have brand-focused project pages to illustrate previous professional campaigns. Professional photos are also a main focus to establish a strong personal brand that’s focused on the individual, or on each client.
For Game Design/Animation: Game design and animation portfolios focus on technical skill and artistic finesse. They often feature a mixture of drawings, animation clips, personal artwork, or in the case of 3D animators, wireframes and renders.
For Developers: Developers and web designers generally need to showcase coding skills, proficiency with online tools, and an eye for visual design.
For UX designers: UX design portfolios are usually centered around detailed explanation of case studies, illustrating the creative process through project pages, and showcasing personality through motifs and site-wide design elements.
No matter what industry you’re in, providing contact information and putting your best work forward is key! If you have questions about how to begin structuring your own portfolio, feel free to set up an advising appointment.
Is my portfolio ever ‘done’?
Yes and no! The structure of your portfolio and how you format your projects might be standardized after you figure out what works for you and your industry. For example, your ‘About Me’ section might not change too much year to year. However, you should always be updating the content of your portfolio with new work and ongoing projects.
I’ve set up my portfolio site and I’m really proud of it! How do I get employers to look at it?
Often, there will be a place in online job applications to submit portfolio links. Be sure that your URL is also hyperlinked on professional social media pages such as Linkedin. Getting your site reviewed by the Career Center or by industry professionals during a mentorship session or informational interview is also a great way to get feedback on structure and content.
How can I expand the reach of my portfolio/my brand?
In recent years, short-form online video content has become increasingly popular, particularly on platforms like Instagram Reels and TikTok. These platforms allow you to create and share creative and entertaining content that showcases your personality and skills. For emerging professionals, this can be a great way to build your brand, especially if you’re in a creative or performance-based field, such as music, film, or fashion.
For example, a graphic designer might use Instagram Reels to showcase their design process or TikTok to share behind-the-scenes footage of their latest projects. A musician might use these platforms to share their music and performance style, or a filmmaker might use them to share short clips from their latest project. A notable example of this is the Unofficial Bridgerton musical, which started on Tiktok by two women and ended up winning a Grammy (before being sued by Netflix for copyright reasons, but that’s neither here nor there). By creating engaging and entertaining content, you can build a following, connect with potential collaborators and employers, and demonstrate your skills and expertise.
It’s important to remember that your online presence and portfolio site are a reflection of your personal brand, so be mindful of the content you share and make sure it aligns with your professional goals.
Additionally, make sure to keep your profiles up to date and professional, and consider using a consistent color scheme and design elements across all of your social media platforms to create a cohesive and recognizable brand. By following these tips, you can harness the power of social media to build a strong professional brand and take your career to the next level.
Not sure what the future holds? Need support along the way? That’s exactly where we come in. Whether you’re a freshman or an alumnus, it’s never too early (or too late) to utilize our services.
Book an appointment with Amy, or another member of the advising community through Handshake, or by calling the front desk at (773) 325-7431.